Big Tech vs. Red Tech, and Global Democracy decline in the Digital Age, Here’s how.
Global Democracy is up against a new foe in the third decade of the twenty-first century: technology. Technology was formerly thought to be a positive force capable of bridging the gap between the state and the restless streets. Today, huge corporations and extraterritorial governments possess and control Big Tech vs Red Tech, which can undermine democracy’s foundations by serving as a public realm and a robust information flow.
Big tech goals, expansion, and unaccountable capacity to influence the human condition have alarmed much of the world. A small number of businesses based on America’s West Coast (henceforth referred to as big tech) now have the power to harness the digital gold rush as well as its equally overwhelming influence on democratic discourse. Parallel to this, a rising China has released plans to dominate innovation, high technology, and the global perceptions ecosystem, owing to its rapid success in developing a robust technology environment (henceforth referred to as red tech).
Technology from the United States’ West Coast and technology aimed at serving the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have both decided to pursue their declared goals with little regard for third-country constitutional systems and regulations. As a result, much of the global democracy is at risk of falling prey to Big Tech vs Red Tech’s vice-like grip. As a result, democratic states must seek out and investigate ways to ensure an open and free global technological ecosystem that benefits all shades of global democracy.
Why is the Battle for Technology Important?
The dangers that Big Tech vs Red Tech brings to democracy are numerous. To begin with, major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, and others regulate, promote, and restrict information received by citizens in democratic nations, as well as their opinions. This level of control over speech and expression, and thus our politics and polity, is unprecedented in history. While domestic legislation and national governments brought US steel, oil, and tobacco to heel, the international reach of big IT has made it much more difficult to regulate.
Social media platforms today wield an alarming amount of power without being held accountable, operating outside of the norms and regulations established by sovereign constitutions. Big tech has de-platformed controversial political figures like Donald Trump and censored content, a decision that internal ombudsmen disagree with, and encouraged an engagement-based content ranking system that has allowed everything from misinformation about coronavirus disease 2019 to hate speech to spread. Platforms have the option of serving as private hosting platforms or as providers of a critical public service; they cannot serve both functions. Nonetheless, they alternate between the two tasks as needed.
Global Democracy has not been sleeping at the wheel. They have introduced laws to rein in social media behemoths from New Delhi to Canberra. Platform companies have decided to hinder, obfuscate, and outmaneuver regulatory attempts in every case. Our digital commons, if left unmanaged, might become a toxic place that suffocates democracy rather than the promised breath of fresh air. The CCP will not hesitate to use artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of facial recognition technology to greatly extend its citizen surveillance system or to use those same capabilities against Uighur minorities in Xinjiang. Overseas, “wolf warriors” infiltrate every global debate of relevance, and Chinese financial might prohibits Western media or social media from intervening to stop such devious and disturbing participation, which exacerbates societal cleavages.
China has endeavored to influence and control the global public as its economic power and technological capabilities have expanded. China’s official media, government agencies, and diplomats have used open channels like Twitter to spread misinformation about COVID-19’s origins. China’s influence operations have expanded to include election meddling in Taiwan and they are gradually infiltrating other countries. According to Freedom House, China has launched a huge influence campaign that is gaming democracies from the inside out by combining its technological capabilities with its economic and political strength.
The CCP’s global goals are reflected in Big Tech vs Red Tech. For example, Chinese computer businesses have swamped global standards bodies and multilateral organizations with suggestions to incorporate CCP values into the internet’s essential design. Huawei and other Chinese state-owned firms have led campaigning at the United Nations for a “New IP” to replace the internet’s present TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) framework. Industry analysts are concerned that this new structure, which has built-in controls that would allow for considerably expanded governmental meddling, is fundamentally at odds with today’s open internet.
For additional reasons, the rise of Chinese standards and technology concerns international actors. While the United States and the European Union have enabled the creation of penetrated and argumentative democracies where all countries and civil society organizations can advocate for the regulation of big tech or the adoption of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards China lacks a political structure that is comparable. Indeed, China’s intemperate wolf warrior diplomacy, which has resulted in fights with Australia, Sweden, and France among others, shows that China has little tolerance for alternative viewpoints or mutual tolerance of criticism.
What does a Political Perspective look like?
States, civic society, and the general public will have to reclaim control of the technology conversation from technology companies. A portion of this process will be led at the national level, while the rest will be multilateral. Domestic governments must debate and reach a national agreement on several crucial issues, including whether or not to make privacy a basic right.